Spirit Airlines: Everything You Need to Know

July 7, 2017 in Airlines, Travel, Travel Tips - 9 Comments
Spirit Airlines sells cheap airline tickets. But that cheap ticket comes with a lot of fees. Here's how to avoid fees, travel hacks, and everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines. | Spirit Airlines tips, tricks, and hacks | travel hacks | cheap flights | TravelingWellForLess.com

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Spirit Airlines grabs your attention with bright yellow planes and $9 fares. Oh, and the naughtiest ads ever. But you could end up paying more for that cheap flight. Here’s everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines. From tips and tricks how to avoid extra fees to survival secrets. Keep reading to learn how to beat Spirit Airlines at their own game and become a Spirit Airlines Pro.

My friend Carmen is flying Spirit Airlines next week to attend a conference so I put together this comprehensive guide on Spirit Airline.

Spirit Airlines: Everything You Need to Know

 

How to avoid fees, travel hacks, and everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines. | Spirit Airlines tips, tricks, and hacks | travel hacks | cheap flights | TravelingWellForLess.com

Spirit Airlines, one of two ultra low-cost airlines in the United States. An ultra low-cost airline as opposed to a low-cost airline like Southwest (who lets you fly free for two years) keeps ticket prices low by charging for everything. Yep, everything, even water.

But now that you know it’s a pay to play flight model, here’s how you can fly smart on Spirit Airlines.

Route map of where Spirit Airlines flies | everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines | Spirit Airlines tips, tricks, and hacks | travel hacks | cheap flights | TravelingWellForLess.com
#morego
Photo courtesy: Spirit Airlines

Seats

Seats on Spirit Airlines don't recline. | everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines | Spirit Airlines tips, tricks, and hacks | travel hacks | cheap flights | TravelingWellForLess.com
Photo courtesy: Spirit Airlines

Your ticket only includes your seat and a personal item. Personal item as in a small backpack, laptop bag or purse. Your personal item must be smaller than 18x14x8.

Seats on Spirit Airlines do not recline. Yep, no movement at all. You’ll sit ram-rod straight for the entire flight. Better hope it’s a short one. Or that you can sleep upright.

Pro-tip: Avoid a bag with wheels or handles. Gate agents view them as a carry-on bag and you’ll be charged a carry-on bag fee.

Big Front Seat

Spirit Airlines doesn’t offer a traditional First Class seat. Instead, they call it the Big Front Seats. Big Front Seats are like the seats in First Class on most airlines. There are only four to ten Big Front Seats on each plane.

A Big Front Seat costs $12 to $175. The price varies depending on flight length.

With a Big Front Seat you get:

  • More leg room
  • Wider, padded seat
  • To recline
  • In and off the plane faster

Is the Big Front seat worth it? Read a review from Bethany of Flashpacker Family.

Pro-tip: Some Big Front Seats have inflatable seatbelts. If you need a seat belt extension, you can’t sit in these seats.

If you need a seat belt extension you can't sit in these seats on Spirit Airlines. | everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines | Spirit Airlines tips, tricks, and hacks | travel hacks | cheap flights | TravelingWellForLess.com

Wi-Fi

On most airlines, you can buy onboard Wi-Fi. Not Spirit. There is no Wi-Fi on any of their planes. Nor are there any outlets or TVs.

Pro-tip: Download movies, books, or games before your flight.

How to Save Money Money Flying on Spirit

Buy at the Airport

Buy your ticket at the airport and save $18.99 per ticket. | everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines | Spirit Airlines tips, tricks, and hacks | travel hacks | cheap flights | TravelingWellForLess.com
Photo courtesy: WestportWiki on Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 3.0

Spirit Airlines charges a $18.99 fee per ticket when you book online. This is listed as “passenger usage charge” and included in the cost of your ticket. You can avoid this fee and save $18.99 per ticket when you book your ticket at the airport.

You have to book at the ticket counter, not the kiosk. See when Spirit Airlines ticket counters are open. Remember to check-in online to avoid the boarding pass fee.

Pro-tip: Only credit and debit cards are accepted as payment for tickets purchased at the airport.

Signup for the Newsletter

Subscribe to Spirit Airline’s newsletter to receive special discounts.

$9 Fare Club

$9 Fare Club Membership includes discounts on flights (up to $20 per person), bag fees, and vacation packages. | everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines | Spirit Airlines tips, tricks, and hacks | travel hacks | cheap flights | TravelingWellForLess.com
Save money, join the $9 Fare Club

For $59.95 a year you can join the $9 Fare Club. Membership includes discounts on flights (up to $20 per person), bag fees, and vacation packages.

Once you join your membership is automatically renewed for $69.95 unless you cancel. It takes four to six weeks to cancel your membership.

Pro-tip: Only one person needs to join the $9 Fare Club. Because you can book up to eight people on one reservation. So one $9 Fare Club membership can cover an entire family.

Free Spirit

Free Spirit is Spirit Airline’s free loyalty program. You’ll earn miles each time you fly.

The number of miles you need for a free flight is based on how far you’re flying and when you fly. Off-peak awards are only available to Spirit credit card holders.

And Spirit charges fees to book award tickets online:

  • 180 days prior to departure – $0
  • 21 to 179 days prior to departure – $15
  • 7 to 20 days prior to departure – $75
  • 6 days or less prior to departure – $100

If you call to book your award ticket, you’ll pay a transaction fee of $35 per person.

Pro-tip: Free Spirit miles expire in three months if there’s no activity on your account. There are lots of ways to earn miles without flying such as dining out, staying at hotels, or charging things to the Spirit credit card.

Military Discount

Active duty military members get a free carry-on and two free checked bags. Military ID is required.

Pro-tip: This discount only applies to the active duty member and does not extend to family and friends traveling with the service member.

Fees

Spirit Airlines, known for the "Bare Fare," embraces the concept of "there is no such thing as a free lunch." Because there are fees for everything. | everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines | Spirit Airlines tips, tricks, and hacks | travel hacks | cheap flights | TravelingWellForLess.com
Photo courtesy: Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines, known for the “Bare Fare,” embraces the concept of “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Because there are fees for everything.

Seats

To save the most money, let Spirit pick your seat when you check-in. But if you’re traveling with family and friends and want to sit with them, you can pay $1 to $50 to choose a seat.

Pro-tip: Consider upgrading to the Big Front Seat. Sometimes it’s not much more than paying for a regular seat.

Carry On Bags

You get one carry-on (personal) item when flying Spirit Airlines. It can be a purse, laptop bag, or small backpack.

If your carry-on is larger than 18x14x8, Spirit charges $29 to $65 for carry-on bags. Carry-on bag fees can change anytime. Find out how much your bag will cost.

BUT, if the gate agent decides your personal item is too big and considers it a carry-on bag, you’ll pay $100 a bag!

You’ll save money when you pay for your carry-on bag when you book your ticket. Carryon bags cost more at check-in and the airport.

If you forgot to add a carry-on bag when you bought your ticket you can add it before you check-in:

Here are some bags that you can bring for free on Spirit Airlines:

Checked Bags

Pro-tip: It’s cheaper to pay for a checked bag than pay for a carry-on bag.

On Spirit Airlines, you can check up to 5 bags. But each checked bag costs extra. The first checked bag costs $21 to $65.under 40 pounds. A second checked bag costs $34 to $60. Third to fifth checked bags cost $76 to $100 each!

Checked bags on Spirit can only weigh up to 40 pounds. If your bag is over 40 pounds, you’ll be charged for an oversized bag.

Here are some bags that can survive baggage handlers:

Boarding Pass

Save money by printing your boarding pass at home. There’s a $10 charge to print your boarding pass at the airport check-in counter. If there’s a kiosk, printing your boarding pass is free.

Pro-tip: Coming from home and forgot to print your boarding pass? Stop by a hotel near the airport and use their business center.

Food and Water

Spirit Airlines charges for water. Yep, you read that right. You have to pay for water when you fly Spirit. No water for you! Unless you pay for it.

Although Spirit favors unbundling, they do offer food and drink bundles. One soft drink costs $3 but two soft drinks are only $5. Traveling solo? Save money by buddying up with the person in the seat next to you. Leave your cash at home because only credit or debit cards are accepted for purchases.

You can bring a bag of food on the plane for free. It doesn’t count as a personal item or carry-on bag. So raid your pantry, stop by the store, or buy something at the airport.

Refillable water bottles

Pro-tip: Food in non-disposable containers such as Tupperware could be considered a carry-on.

Flight Flex aka Change Fee

Flight Flex is what Spirit calls a change fee. When you add Flight Flex to your ticket you can change your flight once online (up to 24 hours before your flight) for free. Well not technically. Because it costs $35 to $45 per person to add Flight Flex to your ticket. PLUS the cost of the difference between the flight you purchased and the cost of the new flight.

Pro-tip: Do the math. It could be cheaper to buy another ticket than pay for Flight Flex.

Shortcut Security

For up to $15 per person, you can access the priority security line usually reserved for First Class and elite status passengers. This is not the same line as TSA Pre-Check.

Pro-tip: Get TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry. With TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry, you can enter the faster TSA Pre-Check line.

Shortcut Boarding

Avoid being the last to board the plane buy purchasing Shortcut Boarding for $5.99 per person.

Things You Can Bring on Spirit Airlines For Free

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Spirit would love to charge for everything, but the FAA won’t allow it. Here’s a complete list of all the things you can bring on Spirit Airlines for free:

  • One personal item
  • Camera
  • Books, magazines or other reading material
  • Coats, hats, wraps
  • Food
  • Breast pump and/or breast milk
  • Umbrella
  • Infant diaper bag
  • Canes and other assistive devices

Travel smart and avoid fees with these clothes:

How to Avoid Getting Bumped

Like all airlines, Spirit Airlines oversells their flights. Spirit chooses people to be bumped from a flight based on their check-in. The last people to check-in, get bumped. You can avoid getting bumped by checking in 24 hours before your flight.

If you get bumped (denied boarding involuntarily on Spirit, here’s how much you’ll be compensated:

  • No compensation – up to 1-hour arrival delay
  • 200% of ticket price to destination (or first stopover) up to $675 – 1 to 2-hour arrival delay
  • 400%of ticket price to destination (or first stopover) up to $1,350 – over 2-hour arrival delay

Pro-tip: Spirit can cancel your ticket if you don’t check-in at least 45 minutes before your flight (60 minutes for international flights).

More Spirit Airlines Tips

Here are a few additional tips for flying on Spirit Airlines.

If you book an international flight on Spirit, they require proof that you have a return ticket.

Spirit flights are usually late. So plan accordingly and expect that you won’t arrive on time. Don’t schedule a meeting or make plans for immediately after your flight. Allow for some buffer room.

You should arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to your flight. If you don’t have TSA Pre-Check it can take a long time to get through the security line.

Got bags? Checked bags have to be checked in at least 45 minutes before departure (60 minutes for international flights). Get there earlier in case lines are long. Bags can be checked in up to four hours before departure.

If you aren’t at the gate 15 minutes before departure (30 minutes for international flight), you’re out of luck. Because the doors close and you’ll have to buy another ticket.

Conclusion

Spirit Airlines sells cheap airline tickets. But that cheap ticket could cost you more because of all the fees.

You can avoid most of those fees with these tips, tricks, and other travel hacks. Buying your ticket at the airport saves $18.99 per ticket. Having the right size bag can save you up to $100! The Big Front Seat can be cheaper than paying for a regular seat.

Have you flown on Spirit Airlines? What are your favorite Spirit Airlines hacks?

Related posts on how to travel for cheap:

Pin this to your travel, vacation, airline, and travel hack boards:

You can buy super cheap plane tickets on Spirit Airlines like $9 tickets. But that $9 flight could end up costing you hundreds of dollars. Here's everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines. How to avoid extra fees. Learn how to beat Spirit Airlines at their own game and become a Spirit Airlines Pro. | travel tips | travel hacks | Expert travel tips | TravelingWellForLess.com

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Debra Schroeder

Debra is a former 12-year travel industry executive and has traveled the world using airline miles and credit card points since 1994. She'll teach you the secrets of traveling well for less.

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9 Comments

  • The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
  • Ryan Biddulph July 7, 2017 at 8:47 am

    VERY good post Debra because those fees are killer dillers. I have flown Spirit a few times. Hands down the funniest and most self-deprecating airline ads on earth. Maybe flat out of the entire ad world, because they are clever and funny and edgy, but if you even consider doing things a bit beyond bare bones they will charge you.

    • Debra Schroeder July 16, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Hi Ryan Biddulph,

      You’re so right. Spirit is hilarious but fees are outrageous. Kinda proves you can’t have your cake and eat it too. 🙂

  • Anna Sofia July 29, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Our favorite Spirit hack is seriously just not to fly with them. Ever. 🙁 The last four times we’ve flown with them, one of the flights (usually the flight to the destination) has been canceled, leaving us completely screwed. We’ve had to do everything from drive 6 hours to make a connecting flight with a different airline to book a ticket with a different airline the day of, causing us to lose money. It’s been a struggle to get a refund, and often we have to argue with support (if we can even get them on the phone) as they want to rebook our flight for 2-3 days after we’re supposed to be in our destination.

    Once we’re on the plane, it’s not so bad. But four cancellations in a row? We end up paying way more in trying to get to our destination than we would if we just flew with a different airline. Blah. Outside of this, these are great tips, and I agree with all of them. Knowing what you can bring on the plane for free is super important (we’ve seen people stopped and have to pay $100 at the gate, ouch!), and the “no free water” thing can be quite a shock if you aren’t prepared.

  • savin' with Spirit September 17, 2018 at 8:51 am

    I just heard from my daughter that Spirit WILL give you a cup of ice for free…can add that to the list! 🙂

    • Debra Schroeder September 23, 2018 at 6:50 pm

      Hi savin’ with Spirit,

      Good to know, thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Bibi September 8, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Hi, I am reading all these reviews about spirit and I’m a bit worried . I have not been in an airplane since I was 12 years old . I am planning a family vacay but also don’t want my flight to messed up or hidden fees . But I am looking for a decent price for the flight .

    • Debra Schroeder September 13, 2019 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Bibi,

      When looking at prices for your vacation, keep a list of all the extra fees Spirit charges per person and compare to the price of a ticket on another airline. When all the fees are added up, it could be cheaper to fly on another airline.

      For example, let’s say you want to fly from New York to Fort Lauderdale for Thanksgiving Break leaving November 17 and returning November 24. Currently, a roundtrip ticket on Spirit is $217.59 per person. When you add in a carry-on bag, seat selection (so you can be seated by each other), and the cost of a printed boarding pass for each person, that’s an extra $130 at minimum. When you add those fees to the ticket cost, a ticket on Spirit costs $347.59 per person.

      Whereas a ticket on Jetblue costs $218 per person and include a carry-on bag, free seat selection, and no charge for a printed boarding pass.

      Then

  • EK October 14, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    Beware of Flight Flex. It only covers the administrative change fee. It does NOT cover the difference between the cost of the original flight and the cost of the new flight (Spirit charges different amounts on different days). That “difference” fee was $141 online. I got an agent to make the change over the phone for $59 which sounded like the $90 I would have paid minus the cost of Flight Flex. If that was the case then Flight Flex is completely worthless.

    • Debra Schroeder October 30, 2019 at 2:39 pm

      Hi EK,

      Thanks for the tip about Flight Flex not covering any fare difference.

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